Sepp Blatter endorses Morocco bid over U.S. to host 2026 World Cup

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Thursday endorsed Morocco's bid to host the 2026 World Cup over the joint bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Blatter, who is banned from any role in global football for financial misconduct, issued his backing for the event to return to Africa, where he still has support after championing South Africa's bid to host in 2010.

Referencing the joint bid from the North American countries, Blatter tweeted: "World Cup 2026: Co-Hosting rejected by FIFA after 2002 (also applied in 2010 and 2018). And now: Morocco would be the logical host! And it is time for Africa again!"

South Korea and Japan co-hosted the event in 2002, the only time the World Cup has been staged in more than one country. The North American plan calls for 60 of the 80 games to be played in the U.S., with 10 each in Canada and Mexico.

In 2010, Nigeria wanted to co-host with nearby Benin, Ghana and Togo, but Blatter said at the time that FIFA would not consider any future co-hosts except in "exceptional circumstances." Another joint bid from Tunisia and Libya also was eventually withdrawn from consideration.

The 2018 World Cup saw the FIFA executive committee vote against joint bids from Belgium and Netherlands as well as Spain and Portugal, before deciding on Russia.

The controversies surrounding the 2018 vote -- conducted in 2010 alongside the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar -- ultimately led to Blatter's downfall as president after 17 years, as well as to a new format for choosing future hosts. The 2026 decision will be made by all of FIFA's 211 member associations before this summer's World Cup at the annual congress in Moscow on June 13.

Blatter's backing for the underdog bid from Morocco came just a day after it was revealed that FIFA wrote to officials to inform them that the ban on statements of support for one bid or another has been lifted.

This restriction, however, would not have applied to the 81-year-old Swiss anyway, as he has been banned from holding any football-related office since late 2015, the year the FIFA corruption scandal erupted and he was forced to resign.

The investigations into corruption within world football, including World Cup vote buying, were initiated by U.S. law enforcement, a point that may explain Blatter's stance, particularly as he wanted the 2022 World Cup to go to the U.S. and not Qatar.

In November, former U.S. women's national team goalkeeper Hope Solo accused Blatter of groping her at an awards ceremony in 2013.

With the tournament growing from 32 teams to 48, the U.S.-led joint bid is by far the safest option in terms of construction, logistics and potential revenues. But what had been viewed as an easy choice has faced scrutiny after U.S. President Donald Trump's disparaging remarks about African and Latin American countries.

Blatter is serving a six-year ban from football following the discovery of an uncontracted salary of $2 million to onetime adviser Michel Platini.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.